In 2020, I am living for Legendary.
Once a week, the HBO Max voguing reality competition series transforms my couch from socially distanced life raft to stadium seating – a place where I cheer, dance, and pose the apartment down as my pets and partner look on in stunned silence. It doesn’t matter if just moments before I was laid out on the floor contemplating the blurry limits of my existential dread. The moment Master of Ceremonies Dashaun Wesley appears on the runway, it’s time to get my shit together. No matter what else is happening, this is ballroom. It deserves only the best.
Debuted on HBO Max’s launch day in May, Legendary showcases the talents of eight top-tier “houses” – Escada, Gucci, Ebony, St Laurent, Ninja, Balmain, West, and Lanvin – as their members vie for the weekly title of Superior House and the chance to win $100,000 come the season finale.
Across the show’s nine episodes (seven of which have aired so far), Legendary’s predominantly Black and Latino LGBTQ performers participate in weekly balls – glittery displays of production, fashion, attitude, and rivalry that change depending on the particulars of the night. It’s an overwhelming presentation of excellence, the sort fans of FX’s Pose, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and plenty of appropriated entertainment will immediately recognize for the hallowed art form it is.
Rooted in centuries of racist, homophobic, and transphobic marginalization, ball culture delivers celebration and rebellion simultaneously. With every duck-walk, hairpin, spin, and dip, these competitors demand undivided attention from their audience. The series’ apt title and banger of a theme song say it all: This isn’t a fight to be the best today, but to be the best, full stop.